Category Archives: Retirees

News and Information for members of the retirement system who are enjoying their retirement

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Federal Withholding and your PensionGetting hit every year with a big federal tax bill? You may want to increase the federal withholding from your NYSLRS pension. Or maybe you’re getting a big tax refund every year. If you have too much withheld, you’re basically giving the government an interest-free loan. But whatever your situation, you can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these Step-By-Step instructions.

  1. Print a Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before your print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, last four digits of your Social Security number and Registration number (if known).
  3. Complete one of the three numbered sections. (Do not complete more than one section.)
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 if you want us to figure how much to withhold, based on your marital status and number of federal exemptions. You can also have an additional amount withheld.
    • Complete Section 3 if you know how much you want withheld. Remember, the amount you should include here is the total amount you want withheld from your pension, not the amount you want to add or subtract from your current withholding.
  4. Print the completed form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail or fax your form to NYSLRS. Our address and fax number are at the top of the W-4P form.

To find out how much we would withhold from your NYSLRS pension benefit based on your marital status and number of exemptions (if you’re completing Section 2 of the W-4P form), you can use our Federal Tax Withholding Calculator. You can also visit our website for other resources and more information about Taxes and Your Pension.

NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2016

Retirement Myths vs FactsWith two retirement systems, six tiers and 346 retirement plan combinations, it’s quite possible that the NYSLRS benefit information your coworker is talking about may not apply to you. That’s why, periodically, we like to clear up some common misconceptions we hear from members and retirees. Here are our top five retirement myths from 2016.


Myth #1  “NYSLRS can change the rules determining pension contributions and retirement benefits.

Fact  We can’t. The contributions you make and the benefits you enjoy are dictated by law — as passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. NYSLRS administers these programs.

This is also true for retirement incentives; the decision to offer an incentive comes from the Legislature and the Governor. Individual employers, like your town or police department, may decide to offer their own incentives to employees, but these do not affect a member’s NYSLRS pension benefits.


Myth #2  “Your final average salary (FAS) is based on the years immediately preceding your retirement

Fact  While the number of years used to calculate your FAS varies by tier and plan, they aren’t limited to your final years of employment. We look at your entire employment history while you were a member of NYSLRS to find the consecutive years when you earned the most, and those years are used in the calculation for your FAS. For more information, visit our website.


Myth #3  “NYSLRS membership ends when you stop working for a NYSLRS participating employer.

Fact  Even when you leave public employment before you’re eligible to retire, you’re still a NYSLRS member. If you’re vested, you will be eligible for a pension benefit once you reach the retirement age specified by your plan. If you’re not vested, your contributions stay with NYSLRS and continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. If you leave public employment with less than 10 years of service, you can end your NYSLRS membership and request a refund of your retirement contributions.

What else happens when you leave public employment? Check out your plan publication to learn more about your benefits. You can also visit our website for more information.


Myth #4  “You can’t make extra payments to pay off a NYSLRS loan faster.

Fact  You can make additional payments or pay your loan in full at any time, with no prepayment penalties. For the payoff balance on your loan, call our automated phone service (1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area and press 3 for members; then 1 or 2 for the Employees’ Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System; and then 1 for loan services). For more information, visit Loans: Getting One and Paying it Back.


Myth #5  “If Call Center lines are busy, there’s no way to get benefit information.

Fact  Even when the Call Center phone lines are busy, our automated phone system can help members and retirees with a number of tasks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Press 3 for Member Services, which includes current loan balance and application status information.

Press 4 for Retiree/Beneficiary Services, which includes COLA eligibility and federal tax withholding information.

Press 6 for Other Services, which includes requesting forms by fax.

Another way to get benefit information is to visit the Contact Us page on our website, which has answers to many commonly asked questions. You can also email us using our secure email form.


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10 Most Popular Posts of 2016

As we wrap up 2016, let’s take a look back at our most popular posts.

  1. NYSLRS Retirees at Home and Abroad

    Where did you go? Not far, it turns out. Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries stay in New York State. However, the rest have made homes around the country and even around the world.

  2. How Full-Time and Part-Time Service Credit Works

    Work is work, and credit is credit. But, if you work part-time, there’s some math involved. We helped members crunch the numbers.

  3. NYSLRS Basics: Becoming Vested

    It’s all about becoming vested, earning enough service credit to qualify for a pension benefit — even if you leave public employment. We went through the ins and outs of becoming vested for members of both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

  4. What to Know When Leaving Public Employment

    Even if you leave public employment, you’re still a NYSLRS member. We gave members a rundown on their options and how their benefits may change after moving to private employment before retirement.

  5. Taxes and Your NYSLRS Retirement Benefit

    You won’t need to pay New York State or local taxes on your NYSLRS retirement benefit, but other states and federal income tax are another matter. We gave members and retirees some insight into federal tax withholding and the 1099-R form.

  6. Your Checklist to Apply for Retirement

    Once you’ve earned the service credit, it’s time to get ready for retirement. We gave members a six-item checklist to make sure they’ve laid the groundwork for a smooth application process.

  7. Death Benefits for ERS Members

    We looked at the death benefit that Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 ERS members in regular plans receive.

  8. Planning Around Your Retirement Date

    A solid lead up to retirement is essential, but picking the right retirement date is important too. We gave members some tips about when to submit their applications, how to pick a date and what their first benefit payments will look like.

  9. NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2015

    NYSLRS members are spread out over two systems, six tiers and 346 retirement plan combinations. It can be easy for information to get jumbled between coworkers and between plans. So, we cleared up some common misconceptions we’ve heard from members and retirees over the years. This is an entry in our Retirement Myths series.

  10. Retirement Milestones for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members

    The better you understand your road to retirement, the better you can plan for it. We took a look at the journey for Tier 3 and 4 ERS members and pointed out several retirement benefit milestones they’ll pass along the way. We also took a look at Tier 5 and Tier 6 member milestone, too.

How NYSLRS Retirees Contribute to New York’s Economy

Public pensions play an important role in our state’s economic health. The pensions NYSLRS retirees earn flow back into their communities in the form of property and sales tax payments, and local purchases. When public retirees stay in New York, they help stimulate and grow local economies.

NYSLRS Retirees Who Call New York Home

As of March 31, 2016, there are 440,943 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. Seventy-eight percent of them – 345,643 – continue to live in New York. Suffolk County is home to the largest number of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. More than $1 billion in pension benefits went to the 33,290 individuals who live there. Erie County has the second largest number of benefit recipients (29,029), who received $701.5 million.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS retirees are patrons of local business and services, and they pay state and local taxes. By spending their retirement income locally, they help fuel the economic engines of their communities. In fact, a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) found that state and local pensions in New York State supported 215,867 jobs, driving $35.3 billion in total economic output and $8.1 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

New York mirrored the NIRS report’s results across the rest of America. Nationally, retiree spending of pension benefits in 2014 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.1 million jobs across the U.S.

The NIRS report suggests that a stable and secure pension benefit that won’t run out enables retirees to pay for their basic needs like housing, food, medicine and clothing. It’s good for the economy when retirees are self-sufficient and regularly spend their pension income. They spend that money on goods and services in the local community. They purchase food, clothing, and medicine at local stores, pay housing costs, and may even make larger purchases like computer equipment or a car. These purchases combine to create a steady economic ripple effect. Retirees with inadequate 401(k) savings who might be fearful of running out of savings tend to hold back on spending. This reduced spending stunts economic growth, which already is predicted to drop by one-third as the U.S. population ages.

NYSLRS Retirees Pay Their Share of Taxes

NYSLRS retirees live throughout the different regions of New York, but they only make up 2.9 percent of the general population. In some cases, they pay a larger share of property taxes. For instance, in the Capital District, retirees make up 5 percent of the population yet they pay 8.7 percent of the property taxes, which totals $218 million. In the North Country, retirees make up 4.3 percent of the population and pay 6.8 percent of the property taxes ($55 million). 

Retirees Build a Strong New York

After a career in public service, NYSLRS retirees continue to contribute to their communities and the State. Their pensions are a sound investment in New York’s future. Public pensions don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, support local communities, and create jobs. As the number of NYSLRS retirees grows, it’s likely they will continue to help build a strong New York.

September COLA Increase for NYSLRS Retirees

In August, we said that eligible NYSLRS retirees could expect a cost of-living adjustment (COLA) increase on September 30. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes.

If you are due a COLA, you should have recently received a letter letting you know how much your 2016 increase is and how much your total benefit will be. If you receive your benefit by direct deposit (electronic fund transfer), you can expect to receive a second letter, which will describe the change to your benefit, before pension payments go out at the end of the month.

The COLA you receive from NYSLRS is not the same as the COLA you might receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

Healthcare in Retirement

There are reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase. NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. For New York State retirees, the New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). If you have questions about your health insurance premiums, you can visit the Department of Civil Service’s website or call them at 1-800-833-4344 or 518-457-5754 to learn more.

If you retired from a public employer other than New York State (a county, city, town, village or school district), your former employer’s benefits administrator should be able to answer your health insurance questions.

Visit our website to learn more about COLA and your eligibility.

NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Increase Coming September 30

If you’re a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, you may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this September. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. Please note, for most retirees, there are other reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase.

How is the COLA Calculated?

The COLA is calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the fiscal year (on March 31). It cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent of your retirement benefit. This year, since the rate of inflation was less than 1 percent, the COLA increase equals 1 percent. The COLA is calculated using the first $18,000 of the annual Single Life Allowance pension (even if you selected a different payment option), or your actual pension, if it’s less than $18,000.

Who Is Eligible for a COLA?

To receive the COLA, you must be:

  • Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
  • Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (for uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
  • A disability retiree for five years; or
  • The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. (Eligible spouses are entitled to half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree was eligible); or
  • A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased NYSLRS member.

SSA COLA

The NYSLRS COLA is different than the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. For 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

If you want to learn more about COLA, read our publication, Permanent COLA.

Protecting Your Identity Online: Tips for Secure Passwords

Secure PasswordsAccording to a report from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), an estimated 17.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2014. The good news is that 85 percent of Americans also took actions to prevent identity theft, such as changing passwords on financial accounts.

With so many online apps and services, we can accumulate all kinds of usernames and passwords. Of course, the trouble with passwords is that we can easily forget them. Many people create passwords that are easy to remember, such as their spouse’s name or their child’s birth date. Hackers can easily discover this information and use it to steal your identity and more.

Tips to Keep Passwords Safe and Secure

Here are four helpful tips to keep your passwords safe and secure:

  • Keep your passwords to yourself. While this may seem obvious, it’s important to not share your passwords with other people. If you have to write them down, make sure you store the list in a secret, private place. (That means not on a post-it note under your keyboard!)
  • Create passwords based on easy phrases you can remember. You can use the first letter of each word and substitute symbols for certain words or letters (like ‘@’ for ‘at’ or ‘$’ for ‘s’). If you use the phrase “I got married at city hall in 1975,” your password could look like “Igm@chi1975”. This method can help produce a complex password that’s more secure.
  • Use a different password for each account. If one of your accounts was compromised, at least hackers won’t be able to get to your other accounts.
  • Change your passwords often. Set reminders to change your passwords at least once every 60 days, and don’t reuse them for at least a year.

Remember, a strong, complex password is your first line of defense and may help protect you from a security breach that could cause a major disruption to your life.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

If a NYSLRS member dies, whether it’s before or after retirement, the member’s survivors will need to report the death to us as soon as possible. The sooner we receive this information, the sooner we can begin the process of paying out potential benefits to beneficiaries. Survivors can report a death to us by email, by mail or by phone. They will need to send us a certified copy of the member’s death certificate regardless of how they notify us.

How Survivors Can Report A Death

Survivors can use our secure email form to report a member’s death. When filling out the required fields in the form, they should:

  • Enter the deceased member’s NYSLRS information into the required fields of the form. (If they don’t know the retirement or registration number, we will accept a Social Security number.)
  • Enter their own address and daytime phone number in the Comment section in case we need to reach them for more information.

To report a death by mail, survivors should send us a completed Notification of Death (RS6082) form.

Reporting a Member or Retiree’s DeathTo report a death by phone, survivors can call us toll-free at 1-866-805-0990, or locally within the Albany, NY area at 518-474-7736. Once they reach the call menu of our automated call service, they’ll press “3” to report the death of a member or retiree, and then press “1.” Their call will be transferred to a customer service representative. Survivors will be asked for the following information when they call:

  • The deceased member’s retirement, registration, or Social Security number
  • The date of death

What Happens Next

Once we receive a death certificate, we will send beneficiaries or certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits or continuing retirement benefits. We will also send them forms to complete. Beneficiaries should be aware that it could take 11 to 13 weeks for us to receive a certified copy of the death certificate and to process required forms.

We can accept reports of a member’s or retiree’s death from anyone, but we can only mail information about death benefits and continuing retirement benefits to named beneficiaries or their certified representatives.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop the payment of any outgoing pension benefits. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased member’s name must be returned to us. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death.

If you’re a retiree, consider reading our publication, Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Your Survivors (VO1874). This publication includes valuable planning information for you, as well as guidance for your beneficiaries.

Taxes and Your NYSLRS Retirement Benefit

Your NYSLRS retirement benefit isn’t subject to New York State or local taxes, but it is subject to federal income tax. Before you retire, take some time to think about how taxes could affect your retirement planning.

Will Your Pension Get Taxed in Another State?

While New York State won’t tax your NYSLRS retirement benefit, other states might. If you’re thinking of moving after retirement, you’ll need to consider the tax laws of the state you move to. The Retired Public Employees Association keeps a list of which states tax pension income on their website. And remember, if you do move, we’ll need your updated mailing address for our records.

Federal Tax Withholding Status for Your Pension

taxesAfter you’ve filed for retirement, we’ll reply back to you with a confirmation letter and some forms. One of these forms will be a W-4P form (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments). You’ll need to fill out this form to choose the amount you want withheld from your benefit each month for federal taxes. You can choose the withholding tax status that suits you, and you can change it any time afterward by completing a new W-4P form.

If you’re not sure how much you’ll need withheld for federal taxes, consider meeting with a tax professional to assist you before submitting the form. We also offer a federal tax withholding calculator on our website to help you plan.

Getting Your 1099-R

Once you start receiving your pension benefit, we’ll send you a 1099-R form for federal income tax filing purposes. A 1099-R form lists the distributions you’ll receive from your NYSLRS pension. We mail 1099-Rs out each year by January 31, so make sure we have your correct mailing address on file. This is especially important if you plan on moving in retirement.

We also feature an interactive 1099-R tutorial on our website. It can be a helpful tool to look at the first time you receive your 1099-R.

For more about taxes and your pension, please read our Tax Information About Your Pension FAQs.